This one almost lost me at the beginning. There's a fast paced prologue written in present tense and fairly gory, followed by a slow paced first chapter. Add to that a protagonist named Rooster (so I have a mental picture of him as a chicken every time his name is mentioned) and it was only the creepy scarecrows that held me.
Lots of Ak 47's, high testosterone stuff. But then there are increasing hints of horrors to come and things get pretty cryptic. The scarecrows made me wonder if we had some Children of the Corn type Horror in store, but then it took a different turn. Having finished now and assimilated the great reveal, I'm tempted to say this is more of a piece of avant garde art than a story. Objectively, it was very well done. The ideas were above the pale and stimulated a lot of analytical thought.
However, as a story, it was non-linear and very confusing at times. First a guy is dead, then he's alive again, then... you get the picture. It all makes sense in the end, but that feeling of not knowing what's going on along the way isn't what I look for in a story. It would probably appeal to Tarantino film fans. Personally, I'm hoping the next story I read is a little more straight forward with the old fashioned beginning, middle and end formula.
I've collected up a batch of short stories and novellas from the Horror category, mostly while they were free. I have no idea if any of them are going to be any good. My expectation is that I'll find a mixed bag; some good, some not worth reading. Being free doesn't mean being bad, it's just modern marketing.
There are more than I've pictured here. I figure if one in ten turn out to be worth the time spent reading, I'll be doing well. Reports will follow as I absorb each one.
So here I am again, offering yet another positive review of a Greg F Gifune book. I know, I know, it's predictably boring. But the man writes quality. So what else is there to say?
Well, one thing I can say is this novella tells the story of Rooster, a retired thief whose last job went horrendously wrong and involved the death of one of his crew. Now he's looking for work, but has a wonderful girlfriend who is his rock, so he knows everything will be okay ... except for some strange dreams about the last job he is starting to have. And then, when another member of the crew contacts him out of the blue with a dire warning, Rooster becomes desperate to understand just what is happening to him. As well as discover what really did happen on the day of that botched robbery ...
Moody, atmospheric, and at times, chilling, Kingdom of Shadows represents a writer on top of his game. The mystery is intriguing, Rooster is a decent POV protagonist, and Gifune wastes not a sentence in pulling the reader along at a fast pace.
However, it all does seem very familiar. There is much of Kingdom of Shadows that I've read before - and every one of those previous reads have also been written by Greg F. Gifune. It seems the man has some personal demons (if you'll pardon the pun), because time and again the same themes - devils, government conspiracies, the nature of evil, visions of some form of the afterlife - come up in his works, with some examples being The Bleeding Season, Orphans of Wonderland or Rogue. As a result, Kingdom of Shadows lost some of the impact it would otherwise have had on me. Which is a shame because I think the conclusion of this one trumps anything else from him I've read, and to my mind, this contributes to Kingdom of Shadows being my favourite Gifune book yet.
To sum up, this is an excellent novella that would have been a 5 star read for me if it didn't feel I'd read very similar narratives from this same author before.
4 Well-Defended Memories for Kingdom of Shadows.